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A gas explosion in northern China claimed the lives of 15 coal miners and injured nine more, state broadcaster CCTV reported Tuesday.

Thirty-four people were working in the coal mine in Pingyao, Shanxi province Monday afternoon when the gas explosion occurred. Though 18 workers managed to escape, 16 were still trapped in the mine Monday evening, according to CCTV.

The blast occurred in at a mine operated by the local Feng Yan Group in Shanxi province’s Pingyao county. Rescue work was halted early Tuesday morning after everyone was accounted for.

The Shanxi provincial work safety administration said 11 miners escaped without injury and the cause of the explosion was being investigated. While relatively small in scale, the mine had been cited last year for failure to provide adequate training for workers.

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Gas explosions in mines usually occur when volatile methane, also known as coal gas, is not properly ventilated after leaking from the seam. At a high concentration, the gas can be ignited by a simple spark, open flame or electrical equipment, setting off second explosions of coal dust in the air.

China’s mines have long been the world’s deadliest, accounting for about 80 percent of all mining deaths globally. A drop in the price of coal, safety improvements, better training and the closure of smaller mines have reduced the toll considerably in recent years.

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